Why Southerners Can't Handle Winter (Or Can They?)

I spent my formative years in places like New Hampshire and New York. I grew up, played soccer, camped, bussed to school (generally had a normal life) in weather conditions that are not seen often in areas collectively known as the Sunbelt. Even when they do occur, they’re generally only around for a limited time, not the weeks-long slog that can present itself in more northerly latitudes.1

I spent a memorable summer living and working in Georgia, coincidentally during the Summer Olympics in 1996. There, I learned about heat and humidity. It was similar to northern cold in that it persisted and became part of the landscape; something that just was and you dealt with it. In the north, those days occur, but similarly to my previous description, they generally only persisted for a limited period of time.2

I then moved to Texas with my soon-to-be fiance and learned an important lesson: weather and weather preparedness is in the mind and the fashion. Texas Tech University was an awesome laboratory for observing the human condition with respect to weather. Texas Tech is in Lubbock, TX, where it doesn’t get precisely cold, but don’t let anyone tell you the winters are mild. Any place where the temps are in the 30′s and the wind is blowing is cold, no matter if the water is freezing. And when it did dip into the twenties or we had some snow, watch out; there are no trees to break the wind. You’d best stay inside.

Inside this weather laboratory I observed that students at Texas Tech and to a lesser extent the passengers of spaceship Lubbock weren’t very well prepared for cold days. It’s not that they didn’t have proper clothing or shoes, it’s that they weren’t following normal (for me) guidelines on how to apply them: Layers. If it’s going to be cold, you wear wool socks, long pants (maybe long underwear), an undershirt, a shirt, a sweater, and a jacket. You put on a hat, and gloves, and generally look like a northerner.

But AHA! Here comes the second part of my premise: fashion. I’m morally convinced that the fundamental difference between northerners and southerners is that southerners care more3 about how they look at all times including when it’s best to just shovel on the clothes and not worry about what that hat is doing to your hair. I’ve watched people actively shivering with their coats unzipped because (I surmise) it looks better open—displaying the nicely assembled pattern of colors with which the outfit was put together.

In all, it’s a matter of what is important to you: If you only have to deal with being cold a few days (maybe a few weeks) out of the entire year, it may be worth the price of a few chilly fingers in order to look your best. If it’s more like four months of frigid weather, your opinions may change.

Do I think southerners can’t handle winter? I think they don’t have to, and that makes all the difference. Throw them into antarctica and they’ll probabably start acting like northerners4. Quickly.


1: A personal anecdote was the five week period my junior year of college where I didn’t see the sun. At all.
2: Another personal anecdote was the week or so of 80′s to 90′s during 1998 when I was living in an unairconditioned apartment. Ugh.
3: Don’t ask me what my p value is and no, this wasn’t cleared through IRB.
4: Or even-more-southerners. Depends on your perspective.

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